SELMA – After Louis Franco was announced as the 2019 Citizen of the Year by the Selma District Chamber of Commerce March 28, he shared a pep talk that he says helped shaped the man he is today.

It was same words of encouragement he heard from Selma High teacher, Richard Dudley, years ago, when Franco admits he wasn’t giving his school work 100 percent of his abilities.

“He didn’t give me a lesson on science or something like that. He gave me a lesson on how to live my life. He saw I wasn’t doing my full potential and he said, ‘you get great test scores, but you don’t turn in your homework.’ Being a know-it-all, I said, ‘I think I have enough cushion to get through this semester.’”

Dudley’s next words stuck in Franco’s mind and convinced him to dig deeper.

“He said, ‘Why would you settle for good, when with a little effort you could be excellent?’ That resonated with me and I put that into everything I do, and what I do for the community and what I try to do for my family.’”

Chamber CEO Bob Allen said a Citizen of the Year has been awarded every year since 1962 and 59 individuals have since been honored with the recognition.

Franco said he was humbled by the announcement, but is even more humbled to be a part of the Selma community.

“The reason I ran for City Council and I’ve been involved all these years, was quite simple. I love this town, I love this community and I want to make it better for my family and for your family.”

He called on audience members to encourage their friends and family to also be willing to step up and improve Selma.

“Ask them if they’re happy with the quality of our community. And if they say ‘no,’ say, ‘are you willing to give one day, eight hours, just to make it better?’ Volunteer for one event because if we all do a little, you know the saying, a lot gets done. The greatest resource our community has is the people. We are truly exceptional and we can do great things here. If it’s difficult, then let’s put in the effort.”

Franco was among six people and businesses honored by the Chamber that night. Also honored were:

Junior Citizen of the Year: Gurmandeep Kaur and Sonny Bianchi.

Kaur was described as a “remarkable, capable and compassionate student” who has been involved with community volunteering and serves as the Selma High student body secretary, Clarion newspaper co-editor, Sikh Honors Society secretary, CSF, Selma Leadership, Key Club, varsity volleyball and the bhangra dance group. “She contributes in so many ways to the cultural intellectual energy of our campus,” her nominating teacher said. “She is also perhaps the most conscientious student I have ever known.”

Bianchi was noted for earning the most valuable player in water polo, varsity swim and diving teams. He’s attended Boys State, earned the Academic All Star award and serves as the president of the National Honors Society, Key Club treasurer, is in CSF and participated in science fair. Bianchi’s volunteered as a tutor, with ESYN, as a lifeguard at pool events, at Bringing Broken Neighborhoods Back to Life events, served as assistant coach for Aqua Bears, at First Baptist Church’s nursery and works at S&L Farms in Selma.

He’s said to have meet life’s hardships head on the make positive change at school and has shown “that anything is possible if work hard enough and stay focused,” his nominee wrote.

Excellence in Agriculture: Ethylene Control, Inc.

Dave Biswell started Ethylene Control working out of his truck and a spare bedroom in 1986. He moved to his current location in 1994 and has grown his company to earn in millions in sales each year. Biswell has supported Selma Kiwanis Club by supplying his product, packets that remove ethylene gas, so their Big Fresno Fair of locally grown grapes could last even longer than normal. This has helped Kiwanis raise funds for scholarships and school events. They have also contributed to the Selma Cares effort of collecting toys and financial contributions.

Business/Industry of the Year: RPS Real Estate

Broker Steve Safarjian is known for encouraging his agents to be involved with their community. The real estate firm has sponsored a number of events including the Selma Raisin Festival, Selma Rotary Marching Band Festival and Family Fun Run, as well as the hospital foundation and Chamber activities. Their agents serve as Chamber directors, members, on Selma’s Planning Commission, Selma Rotary, Selma Women’s Club and Central Valley Lioness Lions Club.

RPS has helped with the annual Chamber Crab Feed, Second Chance Animal Shelter, The Dancing School, Band Festival, as an ag booster, band boosters, Boys and Girls Club, Sikh parade and the former Selma Hospital Foundation.

In addition, RPS is establishing a scholarship this year in honor of Safarjian’s parents to benefit Selma students.

Distinguished Service Award: Johnny Smith

Smith’s been serving Selma in a number of capacities over the past 50 years. He served 16 years on the Selma Unified School District Board, 12 years as a fireman, six years as a police officer, five years on the Valley Regional Occupation Board and 12 years as a U.S. Marshall.

He’s served as a Selma Fire Department captain, serves in the American Legion, is a long-time Selma Kiwanis Club member who’s built and picked grapes for the Selma booth at Big Fresno Fair, supports Selma Cares, served on the Selma Cancer Support Board, and has been a long-time supporter of Selma High sports events and Little League programs. He’s also been part of the support group for the Queensland Police Department. Smith is active with the Selma First Baptist Church serving as an usher and with senior events.

Educator of the Year: Larry Teixeira

Teixeira was noted for being “a humble man of immense character.” He’s served as Selma Unified’s Assistant Superintendent of Business/Support Services for the past 16 years. Teixeira’s been active with Rotary for more than 30 years, serving as president and for the past 10 years as treasurer for Selma Rotary. He chairs the annual Rotary Track Meet that third graders through seniors take part in each year. Teixeira coordinates interviews for each graduating Selma High senior and coordinates efforts between school administrators and Rotary to recognize Students of Character at service club meetings. He’s credited for being instrumental in hosting the annual Rotary Marching Band Festival and serves on the Selma Recreation Commission and on Team Selma to support new development in town.

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The reporter can be reached at 583-2427 or lbrown@selmaenterprise.com.

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